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Milos Jakes, Czech Communist Leader, Is Dead at 97

2020-07-25 17:10:07
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Milos Jakes, a longtime Communist Party official in what was then Czechoslovakia, and the head of the party during the tumultuous two years that ended Communist domination and resulted in the election of the playwright Vaclav Havel as president in December 1989, has died. He was 97.

The Associated Press, in a report on July 15, said the Communist Party had confirmed his death but given no details.

Mr. Jakes, swept aside during the fast-moving events that upended the Soviet bloc, “came to be seen as the epitome of an out-of-touch Communist Party functionary,” Mary Heimann, a professor of modern history at Cardiff University in Wales and the author of the 2009 book “Czechoslovakia: The State That Failed,” said by email.

He was a key figure in the crackdown that ended the so-called Prague Spring, a brief attempt at liberalization under Alexander Dubcek in 1968 that was squashed by an invasion.

In a 1990 interview with The Times, he sought to burnish his image, contending that he had been advocating restructuring and liberalization even as he was being ousted during what became known as the Velvet Revolution. He also deflected responsibility for the country’s much-derided human rights record during the decades when he was a leading party official.

“There were laws and legislation,” he said. “They were applied. When a demonstration took place without a permit, it was the duty of the police to disperse it. This is done everywhere.”

Professor Heimann said that Mr. Jakes’s wife, Kvetena Jakesova, died in 2013 and that he had two sons, Lubomir and Milos.

Mr. Jakes maintained that depictions of his country as bleak in the decades between the Prague Spring and the Velvet Revolution were inaccurate, and that the country had been better off under Communism.

“All that talk of devastation — it’s just slogans,” he told The Times in 1992. While the Communists were in power, he said, “There was constant development and people lived quite well.”

Professor Heimann said that although Mr. Jakes was thrown out of the Communist Party at the end of 1989, he remained loyal to communism.

“He continued to attend the annual May Day rallies held on Letna in Prague,” she said, “where he was sometimes asked to sign copies of his political memoirs.”

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